My life with Bayes Theorem.

I’ve written, deleted, altered and tinkered with this blog more than any other. That’s probably because this is the one blog I’ve put off writing for as long as I can remember – it’s the blog that I thought would always be my first, but never finished. It’s not taken me ages to write this blog because I’m writing about something controversial (or at least I don’t think so) but because every time I start to write about this subject my stomach knots. But this week I’ve decided to be brave, take a metaphorical deep breath and just give it a go.

Bayes Theorem is the core of my business. There it is. I did tell you I wasn’t going to write about anything terribly controversial. But it does make my stomach knot. Why? Well I’ve spent nearly half my life learning and working with the equation. The more I learn about its applications, the more in awe of its elegance and power I am and the less I feel I really understand about it. In case you don’t know much about Bayes Theorem, it evaluates evidence to present the overall probability (belief) that a hypothesis is true, given the evidence available – and updates this value as new evidence arrives.

Saying that I work in one area forces me to open myself to be questioned about a topic – and let’s be truthful, about a topic many have never even heard about, let alone studied. Working in a niche area has it challenges but I’m certainly not alone in that respect. So why does being upfront about what I really care about scare me? I’ve thought about this quite a lot – and the answer is not that I might fail. It’s because I care so much about the topic I want to do it justice.

What brought this into acute focus and spurred me on to finally write this blog was being asked to talk about Bayesian Networks twice in quick succession. Last week, after some very fraught writing sessions, I thoroughly enjoyed running a Year 12 Masterclass for the Royal Institute. Next, on the 6th April I’ll be running a workshop on Bayesian Networks at the Young to OR Conference. Of course I took a long time to refine my masterclass and I’m still working on the workshop (but it will be ready). Certainly giving the masterclass took me out of my comfort zone. I’m sure going to the Young to OR Conference will be fun – but I will be worried about giving a good workshop. But what I’ve realised is that as scary as it is to put yourself amongst your peers, there are a great number of people who willingly offer advice, help and support. In return you should give something back. For me, that means I will keep on talking to whoever will listen about Bayesian networks. Maybe, just maybe I’ll spark enough interest for them to learn more about the topic. After all the world can’t have too many Bayesian analysts.

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